Slate has a pretty good piece today about the hot new trend of bullying authors to change lines spoken by characters in their books. Nothing is safe from the woke censors, not even fiction. Here’s a description of the allegedly offensive passage from a book called Golden Girls by Elin Hilderbrand which was published this month.
In it, character Vivian “Vivi” Howe plans to stay in the attic of her friend Savannah’s parents’ home on Nantucket.
As they debate whether or not to ask the parents for approval, Vivi makes reference to Holocaust victim Anne Frank, after which both characters laugh off the comment.
The passage reads: “’You’re suggesting I hide here all summer?” Vivi asks. “Like…like Anne Frank?”
The narrator continues, “This makes them both laugh—but is it really funny, and is Vivi so far off base?”
A group of critics on Instagram suggested this was anti-Semitic:
On an Instagram post in Hilderbrand’s publisher’s feed, a user who goes by the name “poursandpages” posted a comment (since deleted) denouncing this joke as “horrifically” antisemitic and demanding an apology. Others described themselves as “disgusted” and “gobsmacked in every way with the insensitivity” and accused Hilderbrand of thinking “antisemitism is funny.” After trying to put out these fires via DMs, Hilderbrand issued a formal apology and stated that the line would be removed from the book.
Here’s the author’s full apology:
Was this exchange in the book actually offensive and tasteless? I don’t think so. As Slate points out, “most schoolchildren in America read The Diary of Anne Frank; if you suggested to one of them that she hide in an attic for an entire summer, a comparison to Anne Frank would certainly come up.” Even if you think the child character is being a bit insensitive that doesn’t mean the author is a casual anti-Semite. It just might mean she’s been around children before.
But as we’ve already seen today, children don’t get a pass from the woke. You can be canceled for something wrong or insensitive you said at any age. And if they are willing to cancel real people over things they said when they were 16, why not cancel authors for allowing fictional people to say something similar? The whole woke project demands that everything be viewed through the same set of rules.
Why does it happen? The author of the Slate piece suggests the real issue here might be resentment of authors who are more successful or more famous: “My little account may have only a few thousand followers, but if I can muster a handful of book ’grammers to second my accusations, then even an author as prominent and prosperous as Elin Hilderbrand can be made to dance to my tune.”
I think that’s basically right. Wokeism and cancel culture are ultimately about expressing power, power over other people for transgressions real and imagined. Find someone with more power that you in a particular field and then cut them down to size with allegations of racism or insensitivity. In the process, your clout as a social justice activist goes up as their clout as an author goes down.